June 27, 2022
Let’s line up some familiar avenues for communication:
You have a work number and a cell number.
You call, text, and email.
Maybe you’ve tried Slack or Trello or Microsoft Teams.
You’ve probably arranged morning meetings, weekly check-ins, and a monthly Zoom call.
Your local team, all staff, and managers have access to everything they could need to get in touch with you, colleagues, and managers.
So, why, oh WHY, do so many business leaders feel that there is a lack of communication in their business?
Yes, there may be dozens of avenues to ask a question, but having the ability to exchange information with someone and effectively doing so are not the same thing.
It’s worth also mentioning that between managers and direct reports, being clear about the best avenues for communication, and the expectation for a level of communication, is also useful. Some employees may feel hesitant to give regular updates, or even ask appropriate questions when necessary if they do not first know that their manager has a certain expectation that this will be necessary.
So, where are you most likely to struggle with communication? We’ve narrowed down a few likely points that may be helpful to keep in mind when setting those meetings, discussing goals, or planning the next project.
Assuming Everyone is On the Same Page
Not everyone gets the same information, and it’s even less likely that people all get the same information at the same time. Do not assume that everyone on your team has been privy to necessary information. If it is relevant to their goals, you need to make the information clear. You probably need to make the information clear more than once.
State the goals clearly and explain how each task aligns with the goal. If there is a discrepancy in priority make the order of importance for each step of the process explicit.
Your “Why” Isn’t Explained
If people on your team have to ask themselves “why am I doing this”, communication has failed. Understanding “why” something needs to be done is important to building trust and motivation. Telling someone to do something might get the job done, but telling someone why it is a valuable job will help ensure it is done correctly the first time. It sounds simple enough, but sometimes the “why” seems self-evident to the person instructing the task, or they are more caught up in explaining “how”. Be intentional about determining why each person, task, and project has a valuable place in the organization.
Your Motive Isn’t Clear
If you want to motivate employees, tell them your motives. Is the bottom line to boost morale? Earn more clients? Train more efficiently? Become more compliant with business standards? There is no shortage of honest motives, but if it isn’t clearly communicated people may become skeptical of their own instructions. This damages trust and makes it difficult to accomplish any set goals.
Also, motives can change and that is natural. Communicating the reasoning behind a dynamic project will help the team working on it execute it with accuracy.
Failing to Build a Relationship
Building a relationship is an ongoing part of communication. The relationship sets expectations for what might be exchanged between people or groups of people. Having this in place builds trust, which is so important to effective communication. Lack of trust and lack of relationship can cause unnecessary stress, which leads to confusion or feelings of being threatened. When a person does not feel secure in their role, or in their abilities, it can affect their performance and even lead to a toxic environment for those around them.
Expecting People to Reprioritize to Suit Your Need
If priorities and goals are both clear then it can be difficult to understand why they must change for a time. Managers should never assume that a shift, even a temporary shift, in priorities is unavoidable. Have the conversation to establish new goals and expectations. Openly discuss abilities and challenges that may arise as the priorities adjust so that questions might be asked openly and each individual might understand any new tasks and why they are specifically suited to them.
Don’t expect your team to change their goals just because you have changed yours. Discuss the changes, and how there is a need to realign the work each person is doing.
Communication is a constant challenge within businesses. It is essential to smooth operations. Communication is dynamic and must be nurtured to keep the workplace healthy.
It must be done with intentionality, even after a relationship has been established. Don’t assume that just because team members feel comfortable texting each other that lines of effective communication have been put in place. Explain why projects and tasks are necessary, outline any motives, and build the necessary transparency to establish trust.